Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone is set to launch an awareness campaign that takes forward her fight against depression, a condition that she has admitted to have been suffering from.
Padukone, 30, who had come out openly last year about her struggle with depression and talked about a lack of awareness and social stigma attached to it is set to launch on March 23 an year-long awareness campaign 'You Are Not Alone' to take forward her fight.
"Last year, I spoke about my own fight with depression as I felt I could not just sit by and watch as people who were going through what I had gone through and we decided to launch 'You Are Not Alone' with an idea to raise awareness and to enable students and teachers to identify signs of anxiety and depression," Padukone said.
Starting with own school Sophia's High School in Bengaluru, the awareness campaign is set to cover over 200 schools and to raise awareness, sensitise students and teachers and enable them to identify signs of anxiety and depression.
"We believe that schools can be the first line of defence for emotional and mental health disorders in our youth. We could also help connect the schools to counseling organisations and independent counselors if they need such help," she said.
The programme has been scheduled to begin in a few schools in March with the bulk of the programmes lined up for June when the new academic session starts.
"Our aim is to bring the issue of mental health from the shadows and include this discussion in drawing room conversations from being spoken of in hushed tones," said the actor who took medication and counseling to fight her depression.
According to official data, one out of every 5 Indians suffers from mental disorder leading to chronic depression, suicidal tendencies and work related stress with suicide rates at the highest between the age group of 15 years to 29 years.
Hopeful of expanding her initiative to the most vulnerable group of 15 years to 29 years, Padukone said, "Yes, the above-15 demographic is an important segment and we hope to touch this age group as we go along. As the foundation grows in scale, hopefully, we will be able to do a lot more but it is important to stay focused."
Expressing her commitment towards fighting the mental disorder taboo, Padukone said that she would work towards creating a comprehensive national database of mental healthcare professionals.
"We are committed for on-ground activities such as training GPs, creating a national database of mental healthcare professionals for easy access, furthering the cause through fundraising, partnering with other organisations and NGOs and establishing strong links with reputed institutes such as NIMHANS and TISS," she said.
Under the umbrella of 'You Are Not Alone' campaign, Padukone also plans to extend the awareness campaign to colleges and corporates in the years to come.
Besides launching the school-based awareness programme, Padukone has also partnered with Guinness World Record holding mountaineer David Liano who will climb the Mt Everest carrying Padukone's 'Live Love Laugh Foundation' flag to support people fighting depression and spread the message of mental health.